After last issue’s bizarre cartoon interlude, Matt Fraction gets back to business with the best Kate Bishop story yet, and one that starts to tie all of her previous issues together as the conflict between Kate and Madame Masque gets more and more personal.
The issue begins with us finding out that the strange Philip Marlowe-esque guy that hangs around the supermarket and gives Kate cryptic advice isn’t just a figment of her imagination, but a real person who tells Kate that he’s leaving LA and wants her to look after his cat. Kate agrees, but the cat is a massive dick, so along with her neighbours, decides to go and give it back. When they reach the man’s house, it’s huge, and they find him beaten and bloodied.
He tells them his story, and while he’ll never be able to leave LA alive. The man, who’s name is Harold H. Harold (the H stands for Harold) came to LA as a reporter, and covered all sorts of weird goings on, before becoming a Hollywood screenwriter and making tons of money. Whilst at a Hollywood party hosted by Count Neff and his daughter, he met up with an old friend, who said something cryptic about becoming young again. The next day, this friend was killed. Later on, Harold saw a younger version of his friend jogging on the beach. He investigated, found something horrible in Neff’s house, and was beaten up by his Goons, the bellhops and told that he could never leave Los Angeles. Count Neff and his daughter are obviously Count Nefaria and Madame Masque, so Kate agrees to try and help get Harold out of town.
They buy a plane ticket, and sit and wait. Harold is approached by Flynt Ward, the weed dealer from a few issues back, who, along with some of those damn bellhops, absconds with Harold. Kate and her neighbours give chase, but they lose him, and Harold is killed, hung from the Hollywood sign with an arrow in his chest. After yet another brilliant lecture from the poor Police Chief, Kate receives a letter from Madame Masque, telling her that now she’s fallen victim to the same punishment that Harold was under. She’ll never leave LA alive. Which is bad timing, as, from studying Ward’s phone, she discovers about the hit out on Clint back in New York. Kate can’t go and help him out at all. And oh yeah, when she gets home, it’s been set on fire. Clint’s luck really is rubbing off on Kate in the worst way.
This issue was once again full of the strange sense of humour that Fraction always brings to this book, and I think it was better balanced than previous issues, Kate didn’t seem like as much of an idiot as before, and it was more like a Thomas Pynchon style humour, with weird off-beat LAness in the background, I wonder how much Fraction loves Inherent Vice? I’m guessing a lot.
Annie Wu’s art was once again just a great match for the story, the way she draws facial expressions, particularly Kate’s is just perfect, and man, Matt Hollingsworth’s colours are just the best as well. This issue showed that the Kate issues aren’t just going nowhere, and with her learning about Clint being in trouble, showed the first signs of the now very splintered narrative coming back together again. At times the slow pace of this book can test the patience, but it’s always a lot of fun, and always rewarding.